Embracing the Power in Failure
Aya Fubara Eneli, M.A., J.D.
AYA ENELI INTERNATIONAL
How many times have you dared to dream big and made great plans only to be stopped dead in your tracks by the fear of failure? How many times have you aborted your hopes and life work because you were certain you had set yourself up to be the laughing stock of the world? In what ways do you continue to allow your fear of failure inhibit and limit you?
I can write about this, because overcoming fear had been a constant struggle in my life. Even as I write this, I cringe at the thought of becoming the object of someone’s pity, of being seen as less than, of being judged a failure. Recently, I realized that I was all knotted up about an upcoming event I am hosting.
What if no one shows up? What if lives aren’t transformed? What if I don’t make the budget? What if I fail? But God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, gave me a revelation that has forever transformed life and freed me from the power the fear of failure once claimed over me. “Failure does not in any way diminish our personal worth.”
In other words, there is a difference between acknowledging that I failed in an endeavor versus assuming that I am a failure myself. Understanding this distinction is key to freeing oneself from the bondage of fear of failure, and opening oneself up to actually embracing the lessons that can be gleaned from each failure.
The reason we fear failure so much is not so much the losses incurred as a result of the failure, but it is the meaning we attach to who we are as a result of the perceived failure. For instance, the issue isn’t that you lost your business and had to file for bankruptcy, the real sting comes in assuming that you are worthless, irresponsible, untrustworthy or even stupid because of the state of your business.
Change the value and meaning you attach to yourself regarding any failures in which you’ve been involved, and you will begin to harness the power of failure to bring about great change in your life.
Consider the following stories about so-called failures. In 1902, the poetry editor of Atlantic Monthly returned a stack of poems with this note, “Our magazine has no
room for your vigorous verse.” The poet was the now highly acclaimed Robert
Frost. In 1905, the University of Bern turned down a doctoral dissertation as “irrelevant and fanciful.” The writer of that paper was Albert Einstein. In 1894, an English teacher noted on a teenager’s report card, “A conspicuous lack of success.” The student was Winston Churchill. Noted neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, was considered the dumbest in his class. Oprah Winfrey ‘failed’ as a newscaster. But would anyone consider these people failures today? I think not!
What can we learn from the lives of these individuals? A failure or series of failures do not define you unless you let it. Fear feeds on failure and failure on fear, so it is paramount that you starve your fear by intentionally choosing to take risks by faith and you overcome failure by learning what not to do and applying that knowledge the next time around.
Robert Frost didn’t stop writing. Oprah hasn’t stopped talking. Ben Carson shrugged off the label and continues to excel as one of the world’s greatest neurosurgeons. Winston Churchill masterfully led Europe through one of the most turbulent times in history. Albert Einstein made discoveries that are still shaping the world.
Everything I endeavor may not be a roaring success (and that may be a blessing because we tend to learn more from ‘failure’ than success), but I am determined to keep striving to share the best of what I have with the world. One thing I know for sure, if I don’t quit, then I win. The same is true for you. I wish you an abundant life.
Join Aya at the Women’s Abundant Life Retreat on May 3-5, 2012 in Belton, Texas. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ayaeneli.com. Aya Fubara Eneli is a best-selling author, life coach, motivational speaker and columnist.